As millions of people await their turn to get a Covid-19 vaccine that could be months away, scammers online, in emails and on messaging apps are luring victims with claims they can deliver shots within days for as little as $150.
Covid-19 vaccine scams are on the rise, according to European and US government officials who are warning the public of fraudsters out for money and personal data.
A Reuters search online, in dark web forums and on messaging app Telegram found seven different offers for alleged Covid-19 vaccines.
Scams include emails promising entry to supposedly secret lists for early vaccine access and robocallers impersonating government agencies. Message boards on the so-called dark web have added Covid-19 vaccines to more traditional illicit goods for sale.
The US FBI and Interpol, among others, have warned of emerging pandemic-related fraud schemes, saying false cures and vaccines advertised on fake websites could pose cyber threats and a significant risk to peoples’ health, or even lives.
Website domains containing the word vaccine in combination with Covid-19 or coronavirus more than doubled since October to roughly 2,500 in November, when the first legitimate vaccines were nearing regulatory approval, according to cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, which is tracking Covid-19 fraud online.
“So far a lot of these domains just appear to be opportunistic registrations, but some are going to be used for phishing attempts to have people click on (malicious) links,” said Lindsay Kaye, director of operational outcomes at Recorded Future.
Kaye said her team, which also scours the dark web, so far has not come across any legitimate vaccine diverted from healthcare facilities or national stockpiles.
The scams are preying on concerns about the far slower-than-promised rollout of vaccines to protect against the virus that has claimed more than 1.8 million lives worldwide so far. Most people will likely have to wait well into the spring, or even summer, to get their shot.